backpack: Ozette Triangle & South Sand Point camp
Washington’s Olympic Coast is truly wild, with access limited to hikers and backpackers for long stretches of coast line. This trip to South Sand Point included a day hike to see ancient native petroglyphs at Wedding Rocks.
- distance & elevation gain to campsite: 4.5 miles, 175 ft. gain
- day hike options: Wedding Rocks petroglyphs
- best months: spring (for better water access for filtering)
- location: Olympic Coast; nearest town: Neah Bay
- land management: Olympic National Park
- trail conditions: Olympics: Ozette Triangle
- hike description: Washington Trails Association
- permits: required in advance for all backcountry campsites
- trailhead pass: National Park Pass
- regulations: bear canisters are required for food storage; campfires are not allowed from Sand Point to Yellow Banks (at all times of the year regardless of other campfire restrictions); and dogs are not allowed
- note about water sources: All of the coastal water in this area is a brownish color due to tannins from leaf decay. The brown color does not filter out, but it tastes fine. When we were here, none of the water was moving… it was all in stagnant pools and didn’t look great but it was okay to drink after filtering. At the trailhead, there is a warning about giardia and cryptosporidium that is present in the water, so it is recommended to boil or filter water. Chemical treatments do not work for filtering water in this area.
Day 1: hike in to South Sand Point Camp
4.5 miles, 175 ft. gain
We had permits for two nights at South Sand Point, which is approximately two miles south of Sand Point. Starting at the Ozette trailhead, when we reached the Loop Trail junction, we took the left trail for three miles to Sand Point. The first section of trail is on boardwalk and flat trail through a dense coastal forest and has very little elevation gain.
Once we reached the beach, we headed south for another two miles to South Sand Point. Look for bouys marking campsites. We went almost to the end of the beach where the campsites are all located up steep trails in a cliffy area.
The entry to our campsite was interesting… there are several routes up and we took the ‘easiest’. There are ropes in place for assisting with the climb up and down, but they probably aren’t necessary unless it’s muddy.
Next to our camp area is a seasonal creek, which was the only water access for this area.
I was hoping to take photos of the night sky and possibly see bioluminescence for the first time, but fog rolled in every afternoon and stayed until the next morning before clearing out. I was partly expecting this to happen since there was an inland heat wave. Whenever it’s hot in the Pacific Northwest, fog tends to engulf the coast.
Day 2: day hike to Wedding Rocks
7.2 miles, 200 ft. gain
The Ozette Triangle is on former Makah tribal land (now part of the Olympic National Park), and there are ancient native petroglyphs at Wedding Rocks. An important native cultural area, a 300-year-old village north of Cape Alava (not accessible) was covered by a mudslide around 1750, preserving many artifacts that are now at the Makah Cultural and Research Center in Neah Bay.
From our camp, we hiked north on the beach to Sand Point, then continued along the coast line to reach Wedding Rocks to see the petroglyphs. We needed to time our hike for low tide so we could stay on the beach and wouldn’t need to use the overland trails to get around a couple of headlands.
We saw a couple of dead sea mammals on the beach in advanced states of decay. The smell was pretty strong and I wished they were still swimming in the ocean instead of decaying on the beach, but death is natural…
While we were hiking back, we saw a young bear on the beach and it was so quick that I didn’t take a photo. It was on its way back to the forest, and a group of hikers smartly got out of the way of the bear, stepping out into the low tide rocks to allow the bear to get where it wanted to go.
Day 3: hike out to trailhead
4.5 miles, 250 ft. gain
The hike out was easy. We didn’t need to time our hike for low tide since the beach is fairly wide south of Sand Point, and although the boardwalks were slightly wet from condensation, they weren’t slippery like we had been warned they could be in wetter conditions.
I think that this area would be good to visit earlier in the season when the water sources are higher and moving instead of stagnant, and with fewer chances of getting fogged in during a heat wave. But then it could be raining (very likely for the Olympic Coast!), so really, anytime is probably a good time to visit here.